I recently reflected on how we all learn differently as we explore the world, but that we are all born as learners. Childhood is such a critical time for brain development that we should carefully protect and nurture.

The common approach to children with learning difficulties is to first ask: what is the problem with the child? But what if we first asked: what is the problem that the child has? In order to live a happy, healthy and successful life, I think its important we understand where learning and behaviour comes from and that the ‘how’ and ‘why’ behind learning and behaviour makes big difference on the teaching approaches and environment you adopt.

In seeking to understand the ‘how’ and ‘why’, we should start with understanding the role of the brain in the learning process. Of course, the brain is central to all thought and life and controls everything the child does (or doesn’t do!). The brain’s architecture (which develops in the early years) is responsible for all learning, behaviour and health. But, going deeper, there are four developmental domains that provide the foundations to learning: social, emotional, physical and cognitive. We must focus on teaching the WHOLE child and teaching to all domains. Doing so ensures we are providing the most effective building foundations of the brain to ensure every child has the opportunity for success with learning in school. But in order to teach to all domains, you will need to first know and understand how the brain learns, so when you teach, children DO learn.

So here are five points that may help your understanding of the way the brain fits into learning:

  • The brain changes! For a long time researchers thought the brain couldn’t change – you were born the way you were. Now, research has proven that is not the case. A child is born with the brain waiting for connections to be made. A baby’s brain is born with billions of neurons/ networks waiting to be connected.
  • The environment the child is placed in determines what connections/pathways are made. Lack of exposure to one specific area, can lead to no connection or activation leading to challenges, which are more visible later on. It is crucial that the correct foundations are laid first, this is where the early years are the most fundamental. These networks need the correct learning environment (from home and school) to be connected correctly.
  • Once connected, they need continuous repetition and support to strengthen the pathways or they’ll weaken and in many cases disappear!
  • Get the brain right from the beginning. Early Years is more important than any school choice you’ll ever make! It is more important than any school or university your child will attend. The early years are crucial as that is when the brain is developing and forming the pathways for the future. If an incorrect pathway has been made, it is more difficult to change it, (like a bad habit) than to ensure it’s connected correctly in the first place.
  • The brain is inter-connected and many areas impact each other, so it is crucial that we look at all areas of the brain and learning together to make learning effective.

If you’d like to know more about how we learn, remember and forget (and much more!) attend one of our workshops on Understanding the Amazing Brain.